What’s a Marriage Argument All About?
The push for same-sex marriage must surely rank highly in recent history among movements that have doggedly ignored the opposition’s core objection, and last Thursday’s Providence Journal opinion pages encapsulate that myopia nicely. First, an editorial:
… Gays who wed [in California] will help accustom others to this quiet revolution — chiefly by demonstrating that they can be as drained, dulled and divided over housekeeping duties and expenses as anyone else.
Perhaps just as importantly, polls reveal younger Americans as far more accepting than their elders of homosexual relationships. This suggests that, in another generation, much of the fuss will simply wither.
No one would say that marriage is easy. But it affords stability, support and the deep satisfactions that come with commitment. It is also a fine foundation for nurturing families. That people have been denied the privileges of marriage because of their sexual orientation is both sad and unjust.
If only the most astonishing blind spot of these sentences were the assertion that this hugely controversialist, desperately in-your-face movement could conceivably be called a “quiet revolution.” Of course, the phrase fits the fantasy that same-sex marriage supporters like to foster for themselves: that the advocates for this radical change are forwarding their goals mainly via righteous living, while the reactionary army shrieks and throws every conceivable social and governmental weapon at the growing inevitability.
No, what stuns is the nonchalance with which the editorial writer tags the essential historical and cultural component of marriage on as an addendum: “It is also a fine foundation for nurturing families.” You know, not the ideal. Not even a highly advisable family structure. Just a “fine” setting.
At least Froma Harrop, writing on the opposite page, allows that “a stable marriage is the ideal institution for raising children.” Unfortunately, she makes that point as a concession on her way toward the dismissive assertion that “we already have tax benefits focused on parents” — as if the tax code matches the culture in power to persuade. As if a few extra dollars come April balances a general sense — so affirmed as to be a matter of culture and law — that marriage is about families and children and constitutes such a unique and valuable institution that it is raised up at least beyond the level of buying a sawzall as an investment toward a career in carpentry.
Instead, Harrop uses the civil rights claims in Britain’s sister-partner suit to eviscerate marriage into related taxable categories:
… they brought their case before the European Court of Human Rights. There they demanded the same tax benefits now afforded married gay as well as hetero couples in Europe. The court turned them down, arguing that their relationship was of a different nature than that of married people. Now what could that different nature be other than the presumption of sexual contact? By the way, do the English taxing authorities know whether a married couple is having sex?
Back in this country, 7 percent of respondents to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll said they had gotten married to obtain health insurance through their spouse’s plan. “Medically covered” should become a category on the dating sites.
It’s easy to understand why gay people would want to get in on the marriage gravy train. There’s just no logic for there being one. A stable marriage is the ideal institution for raising children, but we already have tax benefits focused on parents. Given the growing percentage of unmarried adult Americans, the whole obsession with same-sex marriage has become rather dated.
In her hoity ennui, Harrop has dubbed the radical movement as dated, providing evidence and instance, in the process, of an argument that I’ve been making for years on the marriage issue: If marriage is not about the one thing that only one man and one woman can do in combination, then there’s really no grounds for allotting government benediction on the basis of intimacy.
So, Froma goes on to illustrate for all who wonder how same-sex marriage could affect the broader institution the mechanism by which the intrinsic logic of the movement proceeds to do just that. Let people define their romantic relationships as their preference and religion may suggest, but as for a consensus understanding of the institution of marriage, well, hey, there are tax breaks for parents, and there are prisons and (someday again, perhaps) workhouses for those children who might otherwise have benefited from a culture that allowed marriage to do what millennia had — until recently — honed it to do in Western society.
I know, I know, my notions of marriage are “dated.” And one can have little doubt that, should the Harrops of the West ever have a fleeting pang of awareness of the damage that their casual revolution will have wrought, they’ll persuade themselves that guilt and culpability are equally passé.